Monday, April 26, 2010

Completeness and Self-Expression

Excerpt from Becoming Human Through Art by Edmund Burke Feldman.

Why do I say the self is completed in the act of communication, that is, successful self-expression? Because I do not know in advance whether someone else will understand what I have made, or said or done. I await a response, I expect a knowing answer; I try to imagine how you will react by conducting a dialog with myself. But my expectations and anticipations are necessarily provisional until they are confirmed in a real, as opposed to a conjectured, reply. When you do in fact respond to my expression, you eliminate at least some of my uncertainty. Consequently, if you are a teacher, or a critic, or just another person, you have some control over my feelings of completeness or wholeness. You have the power to withhold your response or to respond inadequately with reference to my expectations. Or you may discover more in my expression than I thought I was saying. From this it follows that self-expression is at least two-directional; that we are responsible -- that is, answerable -- for each others self-development; and that self-expression in art is excellent or qualitatively superior only insofar as it exhibits the capacity to evoke excellent responses.
The unanswered expression of a self denies communion to that self and prevents it from becoming complete. The hyphen in the term self-expression provides the clue to its real meaning. It implies a self that acts and is understood.

I like this, except I do not necessarily think that the lack of an adequate response to an expression of self will prevent the self from becoming complete. Often it will drive artists to create better self-expression, so that the desired response becomes more likely. I have heard "no" too many times to really think that it has any impact on my becoming complete. I am complete whether people respond favorably to my art or not. Most artists learn quickly that attaching one's sense of self to their work creates a difficult road to follow.

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